The Weary and Wonderful

wonderfulThe older I get the more truth I find in an old cliché—Whatever gets your attention gets you. Some mornings, it’s my aches and pains that get my attention.

I’ve found that when my mind is full of misery, I’m mighty miserly in my praise for God.  Instead of focusing on a sore muscle or a stiff joint, I make it a point to learn from David who contemplated the splendid and wonderful things of God: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well (Psalm 139).

When was the last time you considered how “wonderfully” you are made? Here are three facts to get you started.

  • You are unique: When you were still in your mother’s womb, you developed your fingerprints when you were three months old.
  • You are a person of rhythm: At 80 beats per minute, your heart beats about 4,800 times an hour or 115,200 times a year pumping blood through the 100,000 miles of blood vessels in your body.
  • You are no dimwit. When you are awake, your brain is producing enough electricity to light a lightbulb.

Each of us is unique and have a special purpose in the grand scheme of life as designed by God.

This may be what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he said: We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10); or, as The Voice says, we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives.

Indoor-fins: The Science of Laughter

fish-bowl-small-sizeThe health benefits of laughter were known centuries before recent studies discovered the connection between laughter and endorphins (indoor-fins).

Somewhere around 900 BC, King Solomon assembled his collection of wise and pithy principles for life. Proverbs 17:22 is a good example: A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.

An article in Forbes does more than just confirm the words of Solomon, it lists six benefits of laughter:

  • Laughter is a potent endorphin releaser.
  • Laughter contagiously forms social bonds.
  • Laughter fosters brain connectivity.
  • Laughter is central to relationships.
  • Laughter has an effect similar to antidepressants.
  • Laughter protects your heart.

If you’ve been sick, down-in-the-dumps, needled by pain or coping with stress, laugh a little and let your brain release the endorphins that will kick-start your immune system, enhance your mood, soothe your pain, and tame your stress.

I hope the words of John McLeod will nudge you in the right direction and put a smile on your face:

Can I give you a handful of laughter

A smidgen of giggles to boot,

A cupful of tease and a comical sneeze

Followed by a hilarious hoot.

Attitude’s Cradle of Forgiveness

ForgivenessWinston Churchill was right when he said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”  For better or worse, your attitude has life-changing potential.

Some people have never looked at life through rose-colored glasses; instead, they seem to be prone to a negative bias. On the other hand, there are some who find the silver-lining in every cloud.  The difference between the two is Churchill’s little thing.

This is even true with the way people read the Bible.  Some people are more apt to see a negative theme when a verse is every bit as ripe with a positive principle.

A case in point is the New Testament principle of sowing and reaping. Stated in a few words it says that you will reap what you sow. Far too many people try to put just a negative emphasis on this passage when it is positively pregnant with potential.

Newton’s cradle is a good demonstration of the principle of sowing and reaping.  Newton posited that “action and reaction are equal and opposite.”  When one ball is released (action), a ball from the opposite side swings out in equal distance (reaction).

Jesus used this principle in a discussion of forgiveness:  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).

How much different would your world be if you retrained your attitude to focus instead of the negative?

I encourage you to begin this week by sowing the positive seeds of kindness and giving the gift of forgiveness to those who have wounded you.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said:  What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

What is it that lies within you?  It’s your attitude and the potential to love others as Christ loves you.  I encourage you to give some thought to Paul’s exhortation to the church at Rome:

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good (The Message).

Beat-up and Worn-down?

stressedAre there times in your life when you can’t seem to shake the petty frustrations of the day, and you plop in your chair feeling beat-up, worn-down, and thoroughly annoyed?

I never want these moments to become marathons, so I try to get a grip on my gripes by redirecting my attention. I do this by thinking less about my perceived misery and more on the character and promises of God.

A passage of Scripture that picks me up when I’m feeling down is Psalm 136. It’s a reflection on God’s mercy or the “steadfast love of God.”

The first three verses of this Psalm begin will a call to give thanks to God and each of its twenty-six verses reminds us that God’s mercy endures forever.

This Psalm is a diary of some of the defining moments in history when God intervened in an awesome display of His power:

  • The power of God is seen in His creative acts (136:5-9).
  • The power of God is seen in His faithful deliverance of His people (136:10-15).

The last four verses of this Psalm can strengthen your resolve when you realize that you are never beyond the reach of God, and He will remember you (136:23), rescue you (136:24), and He will restore you through His steadfast love endures forever (136:26).

Fillings and Feelings

positive-thinkingWhen I was a kid, the most important meal of the day was supper.  Mom was an excellent cook, and she worked hard to prepare the evening meal for our large family. Mom and Pop worked even harder at trying to steer their eight children in the right direction.

Each evening the family gathered around the dinner table to eat and to discuss the days events.  One evening,  Mom and Pop spoke about an incident at school in which I had hurt the feelings of a classmate. As we discussed the situation, my youngest brother said:  I have feelings too, see!  Then, he opened his mouth and pointed to the fillings in his teeth.

The truth is, fillings and feelings go hand in hand. How you feel about life is determined in a large part by how you fill your life. If you don’t fill your mind with what is right, what is left?

Your life is like your car, if you fill the tank with the cheapest fuel available, your engine may not perform at an optimal level; likewise, if you fill your mind with two-bit thinking, you’ll never live a grand life.

To fill your tank with some high octane thoughts, heed the advice of the Apostle Paul and think on whatever is just, pure, lovely, commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8).

Are You Happy or Glad?

smirkThat people expend a great deal of energy in the quest for happiness should come as no surprise.  After all, the Declaration of Independence states:  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

I think it is important to note that while a person may pursue happiness, the founding fathers did not guarantee it; and, the right to pursue it has been endowed by our Creator.

Some people have wasted their life in pursuit of that which can be fleeting and once attained is found to be of little substance.  Harvey Weinstein is a case in point; his life has been an endless pursuit of sexual gratification at the expense of those he has abused.  Weinstein may have not realized it yet, but the flesh has an insatiable desire for more.

A person might find momentary happiness in the things of this world; however, gladness is the fruit of a fulfilling relationship.  In the Old Testament Nehemiah spoke of this when he said, the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Gladness is not found in some sleazy get-rich-quick scheme, nor is it some cheap gimmick; it comes from a relationship of the heart.  The love of God for man and man’s love for the Christ who died for him. Jesus said He came so we could have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

 

Psalm 70:4

Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; and let those who love Your salvation say continually, “Let God be magnified!”

Picker-Uppers and Put-er-Downers

judgment-1024x682-1-730x430Do you judge-mentally or are you judgmental? One is a well-reasoned response to a given situation, while the other is an irrational reaction. One investigates the specifics seeking the best outcome for everyone involved, while the other is condescending and self-serving in its handling of the facts.

A judgmental person thrives by focusing on your weaknesses and failures. As long as he can do that, he doesn’t have to think of his own puny performance and fatal flaws.

Paul challenged the church at Galatia to address this issue: “If a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness. Pay close attention to yourselves, so that you are not tempted too. Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Let each one examine his own work. Then he can take pride in himself and not compare himself with someone else. For each one will carry his own load . . . whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the family of faith (Galatians 6).”

Here are some questions for you to consider:

  • When someone stumbles and falls, do I reject him or restore him?
  • Am I reaching out with a “spirit of gentleness?”
  • Do I have a “holier-than-thou attitude?”
  • Have I examined my life to deal with my own shortcomings?
  • Do I look for the opportunity to help carry the burden of the heavy-hearted?
  • Am I like the Good Samaritan, and try to do good to all?

Your answers to these questions may help you determine if you are a picker-upper or a put-er-downer. Which of the two are you?

Alias: Who Am I?

aliasAs you live your life, do you project your true identity or are you living under the guise of an alias? Are you living your life as the real deal or a wannabe?

A case in point is the person who has never owned a motorcycle, but insists on decorating his body with Harley-Davidson tattoos.

During a time of persecution and trials, some believers were struggling with their new found identity as a Christian.  To boost their morale, Peter reminded them: You are a chosen people, set aside to be a royal order of priests, a holy nation, God’s own; so that you may proclaim the wondrous acts of the One who called you out of inky darkness into shimmering light (I Peter 2:9).

Taking a cue from Peter, I’d like to remind you of your true identity:

When your identity is challenged by some person or circumstance, remember who you are in Jesus: Paul said, We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37).

Hand in Hand

handsThe trials and heartaches of life can leave you weary of life and tearful; and, wary of people and fearful.  When God seems far away, remember you’re in His hand and you can handle “all things” through His strength.

When life gets tough, these 4 truths may help:

  • When you spend more time in prayer, you have less time to worry.
  • When it seems like you are in over your head, remember God is in it with you.
  • When life seems too hard, remember that nothing is too difficult for God.
  • When you’re convinced you’re lost, you’re ready to be found.
  • When you think you’re unlikeable, God thinks you are loveable.

When I was a small boy, there were times I found comfort when my parents held my hand.  When my mother grew old and unsteady, there were time we walked arm in arm so she could lean on me.  What my parents did for me, and what I did for Mom, God will do for all of His children: For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.  ~Isaiah 41:13

Pretty Please

img_1253When my children were toddlers and they wanted something, they were taught to say: “Please.” When they really wanted something, they would look at me with their smiling eyes, and say: “Pretty please.”

I was reminded of my kid’s pretty please this morning while I was reading in I John 3:22-23: “Whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing to him.  Now this is his commandment: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he gave us the commandment.”

After reading this verse, I was left with two questions:

  • What is it that is pleasing to God?
  • Do I do carefully and consistently do what is pleasing to God?

Micah 6:8 is the answer to the first question, but it leads to a series of other questions: What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

  1. Do I act justly and live a life of sincerity?
  • John admonished his readers to “not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth (NKJV).”
  • Another translation of this verse says: “We must show love through actions that are sincere, not through empty words (GWT).”
  1. Do I love mercy?
  • Jesus said to, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:36).”
  • Mercy is equated with God’s loyal love for His people, and it is one of several attributes that define God.
  • Psalm 89:14: “Equity and justice are the foundation of your throne. Loyal love and faithfulness characterize your rule.”
  1. Do I walk humbly?
  • What is the attitude of my heart towards God and my fellow man? Is it arrogance or humility?
  • James says that, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble . . . humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up (4:6, 10).”
  • Paul said in Ephesians 4 that we should, “Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Tolerate one another in an atmosphere thick with love (The Voice).”

After thinking about all of this, I’m still left with one question: Do I act justly, or do I just act?  How about you?